Sunday 14 March 2010

This way to the Temple - The Ophel Gardens, Jerusalem

Two thousand years ago - during the period of the Herodian Second Temple the lower Jerusalem market was located at the southern end of what we now call the Western Wall in the Ophel, an area bypassed by many tourists today. We believe that shops were located on both sides of the lower market road. selling souvenirs, silver amulets, and animals for the sacrifices. Moneychangers converted the coins of foreign pilgrims into the local currency, much like they still do today (and you probably still got a terrible exchange rate!).
Discovered at the base of the wall, one extremely large rock has been partially reconstructed. It contains a replica of an ancient inscription, the original of which is on view at the Israel Museum, saying "To the house of the trumpeting to procl. . . " Biblical scholars are quite certain that the sentence ended with "to proclaim the Sabbath". Our very first direction sign! Imagine the trumpeter standing directly above the hawkers and market stall holders, warning them to conclude their business and go home to prepare for Shabbat.

Climb the steps that lead to the Hulda Gates and be amazed at their size and irregularity, cleverly designed to force pilgrims to walk slowly - an early form of crowd control. During the Second Temple period visitors entered through the triple gate on the right, and departed the Temple complex through the double gates on the left. All, that is, except mourners, who would make the journey in reverse. Why? So that people would automatically know their status and make the appropriate greeting of consolation.

The amazing Ophel Gardens are adjacent to the bus stop entrance to the Western Wall Plaza.

To view a Google map of this site, please click here

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